About Time: You Visited Cafe Wolseley at Bicester VillageBy Iona Goulder
I was surprised when I heard the news that Corbin & King, the team behind the original Wolseley Restaurant, had chosen Bicester Village as the location for its first restaurant outside London. Although I had heard of this famous shrine to designer label shopping, I didn’t quite appreciate its popularity amongst tourists and Brits alike.
Reportedly the second most visited location for Chinese tourists, after Buckingham Palace, Bicester Village is home to more than 160 outlets offering cut down prices on pretty pricey products. As part of my first ever visit, I was invited to review the new restaurant which opened in June this year. Walking down the ‘highstreet’ I did wonder quite how it would work amongst the chocolate box barns that house the fashion brands (and from what I could see, the UK’s largest Pret). The Wolseley is known for its unique interiors and attention to detail – would that be lost amongst this carefully curated village?
Cafe Wolseley: The Run-Down
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Cafe Wolseley is the queue. If you’re reading this and you plan to go, then you need to book. From the moment we entered to when we left there were never less than 20 people waiting outside. Perhaps it was the rain, but I suspect this is exactly why Corbin & King chose to come here. Not only does Cafe Wolseley appeal to Bicester Village shoppers, but actually it’s one of the few restaurants in the village, it really is a captive audience. Luckily and just a little bit pleased with ourselves, we had a booking, so walked past the line of luxury bags and slightly sodden shoppers into the main restaurant.
Although the atmosphere is notably more chaotic, the interior of the restaurant feels pretty close to the London original. Lead by Shayne Brady the design includes a recognisably Wolseley smart black-and-white chevron floor, hand-painted Chinoiserie murals and an impressive double-volume vaulted ceiling. Once we found our seats in an almost conservatory-style space at the back of the restaurant, we felt immediately removed from the madness outside and in the very capable hands of the Cafe Wolseley team. It really is the perfect antidote to the endless, browsing, fitting and queuing outside. The Wolseley is known for great service and this was no different here; within minutes of sitting down, we’d ordered gin and tonics and were already admiring the menu.
Cafe Wolseley: Eat and Drink
The menu is exactly what you’d expect from the Wolseley, in a good way. There are the classic Wolseley favourites, together with new additions. We started with a classic prawn cocktail as well as the avocado vinaigrette (insert millennial avocado joke here). Both classic dishes, both executed to perfection. The prawn cocktail was a generous portion of big, fresh, juicy prawns in a deliciously creamy cocktail sauce, and they matched perfectly with the familiar crunchy Wolseley bread and butter. Meanwhile, if you’re obsessed with avocado, why not have a plate of it? You can’t go wrong here and thankfully they didn’t: big chunks of perfectly ripe avocado with a tangy lemon vinaigrette. So far so good.
Now to the mains. Again, we chose to stick to the winter warmer classics. We ordered the renowned Wolseley chicken schnitzel as well as the five hour braised beef that seemed to be on the menu for moments like this (it was cold and raining outside). The beef was outstanding; tender beef in a deep rich sauce, every bite was indulgent and delicious. The crushed carrots were the perfect accompaniment, not too heavy as to make the whole dish overly stodgy, but instead the ideal vehicle to mop up the sauce. Finally, and condiments aren’t often praised, but the horseradish that came with this main was one of the best I’ve ever had. Meanwhile, the chicken schnitzel is just what you’d expect: crunchy, salty with a little lemon to add that citrusy underbite. A simple side salad or mash if you’re feeling naughty would go well with this. The schnitzel is the Wolseley doing what it does best: simple cooking elevated to another level.
If this discount shopping isn’t enough to get you there Cafe Wolseley should push you over the edge. Not only is the food spot on, it’s the perfect way to escape the crowds and add another foodie element to your visit. Book ahead and enjoy!
Bicester Village, 50 Pingle Dr, Bicester OX26 6WD